Regret

January 24, 2014

Victory. Not just victory, but epic victory. Judge Lawlor not only dismissed the case against my client, but also sanctioned the other side and their attorney, Chad Cooper. This was going to a fun call to my client…

I have to be honest, Chad Cooper might have been the worst lawyer I ever had the displeasure of dealing with. The only positive thing I could muster up about Chad is how much I loved mopping the floor with him on every motion or court proceeding. His suits never fit right, and he didn’t make a lot of sense in court. I couldn’t believe anyone was paying this guy money to represent them. Every time I dealt with Chad I felt a sense of disdain and dislike. Part of me took great pleasure watching Judge Lawlor constantly rip him apart.

They key to winning this case was easy, really. File lots of motions, overwhelm him, and give him no mercy. “The Chadster”, as I liked to call him around the office, wouldn’t respond on time. Then the judge would get angry, and sanctions would be issued. Chad was always so overwhelmed. This was a constant theme throughout the case:

“Hey Jordan, it’s Chad… I’m a little jammed up this month. Do you think I could get a 14 day extension?”
“Chad, the best I can do is give you three days. That’s it. If you don’t like it, put it before Judge Lawlor again. Actually, I think I would like to see Judge Lawlor. Wouldn’t that be so much fun? I’ll even wear a tie like a big boy.”
“…three days is fine, Jordan. Thanks.”

From there, the Chadster would put together a half hearted, sloppy reply. After about six months of this pattern, Judge Lawlor had enough. Chad and his client got sanctioned, and my client was let out of the lawsuit. I immediately sent Chad a letter informing him that I was going to sue him and his client for bringing suit in the first place.

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The Plea

December 3, 2013

It is Tuesday at 9.30am and I am in the booth.

The booth is a tiny box where I have the honor of talking to my client through an inch of bullet-proof glass. I say “talking”, though it’s really more like yelling, since it’s pretty hard to hear through that glass.

“Booth” is a misnomer too. “Booth” reminds me of the precursor to something fun. You buy tickets to a movie or carnival rides at a booth. No such fun was happening today.

Really, the booth is purgatory, a limbo my clients sit in after they’ve made their way from the prison and to the courthouse basement’s holding cells, but before they enter the courtroom where they await final judgment.

This particular morning, I am wearing a navy flannel Brooks Brothers No. 1 sack suit, a white shirt I freshly pressed at 5.30 that morning, and a somber tie that reflected my mood.

In gross juxtaposition, my client is in an orange prison jumpsuit and has a thermal on underneath to keep warm. I guess this hell follows Dante’s rules.

My client is a good man who’d recently made a series of terrible decisions, all of which led to where he is today. Despite his cock-ups, he was truthful and admitted his mistakes not only to his family, but to members of his community.

Then the police became involved.

And he got arrested.

And his mistakes became a “case.”

And that’s how we ended up on opposite sides of the same sheet of glass on Tuesday at 9.32am.

Today, he is ready to plead guilty to the charges against him. In exchange for giving up his Constitutional right to a jury trial, he is offered a sentence far less than what he would see if he were found guilty at trial.

Though we’ve already done this before back up at prison, I review with him one last time his written guilty plea colloquy, and explain to him word by word the rights he is giving up by pleading guilty. I’m reading it to him like I’d read “Hop on Pop” to a kindergartner.

But he’s not a kindergartner. He’s a grown man. And this isn’t “Hop on Pop.”

It’s 9.34am. I’ve finished reviewing the colloquy with him. He’ll sign it out in the courtroom, since now his hands are shackled behind his back and we’re separated by an inch of bullet-proof glass.

It’s 9.35am, and I can only watch as my client sobs and tears stream down his face.

You see, up until this point he’s been a man of god. An educated guy, he’s worked the same job for the last 25 years, and been married to the woman he loves for the last 30. He’s lost all of that now.

(Did I miss the day in law school they taught you how to handle this?)

According to the arrangement with the District Attorney’s office, he faces up to five years in a state correctional institution for the crimes he’s pleading to. If he’s really good (including credit for time served) he’ll get out in about two years. If he runs into problems in prison, he’s going to miss his son’s high school graduation.

I ask him if he as any more questions for me before we go into the courtroom.

“Lord Jesus, what have I done? Will God forgive me? My wife’s left me. Leo, what am I going to do?”

He spits out this sentence between sobs. A man, broken. But in an instant, he musters up all the dignity he has left. He toughens up his features and tries to wipe his eyes on his elbow—which is difficult seeing as his arms are handcuffed behind his back—and puts on an air of stoicism.

And I tell him. “Bill [not his real name], when the court officer asks you how you plead, you say ‘Guilty’”.

He nods.

According to that fancy framed piece of paper from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court hanging on the wall of my office, I’m an attorney and counselor at law. But the three years of schooling and two years out in practice hadn’t prepared me for this—telling a grown man, through bullet proof glass, who until thirty seconds ago had been crying like a baby, that he was going to be spending the next five-ish years of his life outside of the city he’s lived in his whole life, shipped out to Bumblefuck, Pennsylvania (which alone would be enough of a shock) to take up residence at the taxpayer’s expense in a state correctional institution. And I can tell you that a state correctional institution is no Sandals resort. Hell, it’s not even a Howard Johnson.

“Leo, what am I going to do with the rest of my life?” He asks me. While his expression is still stoic, his bloodshot, watery eyes belie his terror. That look—the feeble attempt to cover fear with toughness—it’s a look that will quickly become familiar to me.

(Remind me, what the fuck did Two Ships Peerless do to prepare me for this?)

At 9.37am, two knocks on the door interrupt us. The court crier pokes his head in. “The Judge is ready,” he says, then shuts the door behind him.

I stand up. Bill stands up, hands cuffed behind his back, and the sheriff walks in prepared to lead him out to the courtroom.

Through the glass I shout: “Bill, I’ll see you inside. It’s been my honor to represent you. Remember — everyone is better than the worst thing they’ve ever done.”

I turn and walk out of the booth, prepared to meet my client in the courtroom for judgment.


Book Review: Keith Lee’s The Marble and The Sculptor

November 24, 2013

From the moment I saw the fictional character ADA Alexandra Cabot on Law and Order: SVU I knew I wanted to be a lawyer.  My thought was, and I kid you not, that I was going to be one of the most well-known, admired, feared, young, blonde lawyers to sweep a city off its feet.

Before I continue, let me just say you’re right, that almost never happens.  Alas, I thought it would.

Had Keith Lee’s The Marble and The Sculptor: From Law School to Law Practice been one the books recommended to me (instead of Gideon’s Trumpet, etc.) I would have known from page 5 the truth – “the practice of law is nothing like you have seen in the media.”  I learned that the hard way in law school.

As a “green” lawyer, and I mean very green, I appreciate the brutal honesty of what lies ahead for me having just passed the Bar.  However, Keith’s advice will resonate with a broad spectrum of people – from aspiring lawyers who are contemplating law school to anyone entering a new profession.  The chapters are short and sweet, covering dozens of areas from courses to take (and not take) in law school to the importance of writing well in law to professional development.   Keith isn’t afraid to tell people like me, who think (for me, thought) being a lawyer is the most glamorous and lucrative profession in the world, that failure and embarrassment are inevitable.  The theme of the book is straightforward – do everything like you give a damn.  Period.  Success in both your personal and professional life will follow.  As Keith reiterates, whining gets you no where.  Keith doesn’t care that the legal job market is in flux or that a law school exam may be too hard.  Keith instead sheds light on taking the path less traveled – get off your butt and seek opportunities, network and volunteer all with the expectation of receiving nothing in return.

Although I am past the law school and Bar studying phase, I can’t help but think “crap, I really know nothing about the practice of law.”  However, I leave Keith’s easy-to-read book with the most honest and simple piece of advice I have yet to receive — I am the master of my own success.  Keith can’t provide it.  My mentors can’t provide it.  No one can force me to network or to attend Bar events.  But Keith has provided an easy-to-follow map to help me get there (…and  to maybe one day become Alexandra Cabot).


In This Sadness

November 11, 2013

The rain came down on the courthouse windows as I sat staring at the empty bench. The jury had been deliberating for hours. I stood up and started pacing, wishing I hadn’t quit smoking years ago… a smoke would be great right now.

“Jordan, you look nervous” the client said to me.
“I’m just thinking. I’ve been out of the office for a week now. That’s all…”

Truth be told I was nervous as all hell. But a good nervous. I felt alive.

Just as the client was about to say something, the chamber doors opened and Judge Shemlin walked out. Here comes our verdict…

At that moment, I thought back to 2009 and the first case I had ever tried. I was an associate at Wolf Rebman, a small suburban Pennsylvania law firm. I second chaired a case with my boss, James, and we had won against all odds. James had tried hundreds of jury trials in his career. He was a man of few words, and never showed even the slightest bit of emotion. I remembered the jury deliberations in that case, and asking James if he was nervous…

“Honestly, Jordan, I’m nervous as hell” James told me, still looking cool as ice, with a slight grin on his face. “The day I’m not nervous is the day I retire from law. Even after 30 years of practice, it never gets any less nerve racking. It just doesn’t. But man, when you win, it’s the best feeling in the world. There is nothing better than winning a jury trial, nothing in the entire world…”

James had spent his career trying cases, and mostly winning them. He started his practice very shortly after law school, and then spent a lifetime building it up. After 30 years of practice, James had many boats, several vacation houses, and he never needed to work again. He was the consummate trial lawyer. Cool, calculated, and someone who was prepared for every situation.

Ever since I worked for him, I always wanted to be James.

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Self promotion — but at what cost to clients?

June 1, 2013

ShamelessSelfPromotionI’ve been struggling recently with the concept of lawyers’ self-promotion via the media.

Recently, I’ve noticed attorneys in several high-profile cases end up with a camera in front of them and a reporter shoving a microphone into their face, asking them for a comment. Some of these lawyers are younger; others have been around long enough that I presume they know what they’re doing.

Until the lawyer gives a soundbite that could not possibly help their client, and seems calculated only  to get the lawyer’s name out in the evening news.

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The Future of Law is the Fundamentals

April 5, 2013

The Future of Law is the Fundamentals

Read my non-clothing related manifesto over at Lawyerist.


Adventures in Google search terms.

April 2, 2013

Adventures in google search terms.

“Jordan Rushie Porn.”

::shudder::


Of Unreasonable Searches and Seizures and Twitter fights.

April 2, 2013

Of Unreasonable Searches and Seizures and Twitter fights.

I get into a twitter fight over the illegality of Stop and Frisk as implemented by the PPD with the Philadelphia District Attorney, and next thing I know I’m on Philebrity.

Maybe Twitter is useful for more than sharing cat pictures.*

*Like sharing dog pictures.

P.S. Stop and frisk is still bullshit.


Fishtown Chili Cook-Off Smashing Success, Despite Lack Of Guatemalan Insanity Pepper

March 26, 2013

Fishtown Chili Cook-Off Smashing Success, Despite Lack Of Guatemalan Insanity Pepper

The Fishtown Neighbor’s Association 3rd Annual Chili Cookoff was a rousing success. And while our spicy three-bean & seitan vegan Occupy Chili didn’t win this year, we had a great time. Kudos to FNA for another job well done.

Plus Jordan had an excuse to wear his cheesesteak hat.

Read more at Phoodie.


Free Legal Advice of the Day — STOP TALKING ON AVVO.

March 26, 2013

Today’s legal pro-tip: If you are a criminal defendant, or a potential criminal defendant — SHUT UP.

Don’t talk on the internet, even if you get “free advice” from professionals on the internet. Guess what? DAs read Avvo.com too.

So if you’re a criminal defendant, or a potential criminal defendant, do the following:

  1. Shut up.
  2. Don’t post on about your case on the internet. This means Avvo, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Instagram, Grindr — WHATEVER.
  3. Call an attorney immediately.
  4. Did I mention SHUT UP?

Talking on the internet cannot help you. It can, and will, only hurt your case.

You hire a lawyer, you get someone who’ll be the only person between you and a prosecutor gunning for your head.

In the meantime SHUT UP. Free legal advice on the internet is worth what you pay for it. Except this advice. This advice might just save your ass.

h/t Charles Thomas for the link to the Avvo question that inspired this post.


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